Nationals Draw Their Smallest Crowd For A Home Game Started By Stephen Strasburg
The Nationals drew 16,245 fans for P Stephen Strasburg’s first home start of the season last night against the Astros, the smallest crowd for a game in DC that Strasburg has started. The attendance comes to only 39.1% capacity at Nationals Park. For Strasburg’s four home starts last September following his return from Tommy John surgery, the club averaged 28,849 fans per game (69.5% capacity). Those four starts included one Tuesday night game and three weekend games. Strasburg's seven home starts in '10 averaged 33,446 fans per game (THE DAILY). CSNWASHINGTON.com's Mark Zuckerman noted since Strasburg first broke into MLB in '10, "amid hoopla and packed houses," he has seen the "hysteria surrounding his starts considerably wane." Zuckerman: "'Strasmas,' that national holiday that was observed every five days back when he was a flamethrowing rookie, is no more." That "isn't to say he won't pitch in front of big crowds plenty of times this season and beyond," it just is "no longer a guarantee the turnstiles will need to be greased every time he's scheduled to start." A "near-perfect confluence of negative factors" contributed to last night's low attendance. It was a Monday night game in April, "traditionally the least-attended contests all season," and the Astros are "one of the worst-drawing visiting clubs that will come to DC" in '12. Also, the Capitals hosted the Bruins for Game 3 of the NHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinal. The previous low-attendance mark for a Strasburg start was Aug. 15, 2010, when "only 21,695 showed up to watch" (CSNWASHINGTON.com, 4/16).
RUNNING UP THAT HILL: In N.Y., Ken Belson reports with a "core of young talent," the Nationals are "meriting attention in a city otherwise focused on a presidential election." The team "just completed its biggest opening weekend since its current ballpark opened" in '08. While declining to offer specific figures, Nationals COO Andrew Feffer said that season-ticket sales were the "highest they had been since Nationals Park opened." He added that the team had "added W. B. Mason, United Airlines, Toyota, Under Armour and Cholula Hot Sauce as sponsors in the past year." Meanwhile, a new local TV contract "could boost the Nationals’ revenue, give them more money to sign free agents and clearly establish them as the top team in the Baltimore-Washington area" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/17). ESPN’s Terry Francona said if the Nationals "are going to be relevant and be a large market, which they should be, that’s good for baseball” (“Baseball Tonight,” ESPN2, 4/17).